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I didn’t always know that freshly laid eggs were not good candidates for hard-boiling. Trying to cleanly peel away the shell and membrane from a hard-boiled egg made from a too-fresh egg is nearly impossible, leaving you with a very ugly egg with huge-crater like crevices. (Eggs need a “breather,” allowing the eggs “time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell,” says the American Egg Board.) Hard-boiled eggs can be cooked for too long and at too high a temperature, resulting in dry and chalky, crumbly egg yolks, rubbery whites and the dreaded unsightly grey-green color around the yolk – an occurrence of sulfur and iron compounds in the egg reacting at the surface of the yolk. None of this matters much if you are making something like egg salad, but if you plan to enjoy hard-boiled eggs as is, or perhaps all purpled-out and pickled with some beets, the goal is for the egg’s surface to be smooth and the yolk creamy. I enjoy hard-boiling eggs to the point where the yolk is just done and found that 12 to 13 minutes, for six large eggs, to be about perfect. (To achieve good results, using a kitchen timer, from the point where the eggs begin to boil, is essential.) Pickled beets and eggs can be made with fresh beets, but using beets that are already pickled whittles the chore down to nothing more than cooking a few perfectly hard-boiled eggs. For pointers on how to boil, peel and check to see if your eggs are mature enough to boil, see tips following the recipe for Pickled Beets and Eggs.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

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